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TWO South African leaders dropped in from the sky into a heaving throng of Transkei peasants. Only one had the power to calm the crowd -- and it wasn't struggle hero and Eastern Cape Premier Raymond Mhlaba.
A helicopter carrying President Nelson Mandela and Mhlaba landed in violence-torn Tsolo during Mandela's three-day visit to the Eastern Cape last week. The small Transkei town is a centre of mayhem and murder, said by officials to have been sparked by stock theft.
Pandemonium erupted as the president and Mhlaba stepped from the aircraft. Angry marshals stepped in with kieries and fists in a futile attempt to keep the crowd behind a strip of chevron tape. The crowd heaved and shouted. Calls of "discipline, comrades" went unheeded.
Mhlaba took the podium and pleaded into the address system for calm. He might as well have screamed at the wind to stop blowing.
In sharp contrast, Mandela paced slowly to the podium and started speaking. The crowd simmered down and soon was quiet. Mhlaba must have flinched.
This was just one moment in a series during Mandela's hectic three-day visit to the Eastern Cape when Mandela's wilful leadership succeeded with ease while Mhlaba -- typifying his regional government -- seemed to flounder.
Standing before the obedient crowd, Mandela stated: "I am not going to allow people to take away other people's livestock and kill other people. If this continues, I might be forced to send in the army to arrest everybody involved in the violence and
Mhlaba must have flinched again. The warning was the first decisive step taken by the government at any level to address the problem. Mandela had drawn the line where Mhlaba's provincial government had only issued promises to look into the matter.
This came after a visit to Umtata, where Mandela addressed supporters of the traditional leaders' organisation, Contralesa, and the South African National Civics Organisation (Sanco) , which are at odds over control of rural communities.
Tensions between the two organisations have been mounting and are threatening to flare into confrontation. Some chiefs are threatening to disrupt local government elections in areas under their rule, while Sanco is threatening tribal leaders with its campaign to use the elections to "democratise" rural
Mandela took up the argument for the civics. "There is no way one can do away with civic structures. They are a prominent feature of our democratic society, whether it is in rural or urban areas," he said to chiefs in the crowd.
But he went on to remind Sanco that Angola's Marxist government had abolished chieftaincy in Angola, only to be faced with rebellion from tribal followers in the countryside. The MPLA had lost support to parties which respected tribal leaders.
Attempting to bridge the divide between chiefs and modernists, he said: "How can civics and traditional leaders fail to work peacefully when you have the same cultural background? There is so much which unites
The Sanco-Contralesa squabble was a priority during Mandela's Eastern Cape visit after chiefs petitioned him to intervene. They said the Bisho Government was not taking them seriously.
Once again, it was Mandela who seemed to set both parties on a course away from confrontation whereas Mhlaba, faced with a rebellion by Eastern Cape chiefs, had done little more than to announce that he would assume the government's tribal responsibilities from MEC and former Sanco activist Max Mamase. -- Ecna
When Mandela visited Transkei's Police Training College, policemen complained that they had received little co-operation from Bisho over concerns about their future. Mandela undertook to respond personally to their grievances. Again, Mhlaba must have squirmed.
At the outset of the tour Mandela warned disgruntled civil servants that disrupting government was unnaceptable. Continued illegal protests would incur the full wrath of his government, he said.
Mhlaba had issued a markedly similar warning some months earlier. But he seems impervious to the problems besetting his government. While he has maintained a steady profile at public ceremonies, his trip to a troublespot like Tsolo was a rarity.
Indeed, it took Mandela three days to tackle such problem areas and make a decisive input where Mhlaba has failed in nine months to make a difference. -- Ecna